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What is Pastoral Counseling

The following is shared by the Kentucky Association of Pastoral Counselors.

What is Pastoral Counseling?

Pastoral counseling, or pastoral psychotherapy, is the integration of psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with theological and spiritual understanding. Kentucky Licensed Pastoral Counselors have received extensive psychotherapeutic training. They learn a broad range of counseling theories and techniques to conceptualize a person’s patterns of thought, affect, and behavior and make appropriate interventions in the therapeutic hour.

In addition to their psychotherapeutic training, KLPCs also receive robust theological education. They learn biblical hermeneutics, systematic theology, religious history, spiritual formation, and much more. At each step of the way, theology and spirituality are interwoven with psychotherapy as KLPCs seek to deeply understand their clients and help them to integrate their mind with their spirit in their therapeutic journeys.

How is Pastoral Counseling different?

At base, pastoral counseling is not different than counseling you might receive from a clinical social worker or a clinical mental health counselor, for example. KLPCs are licensed by the state of Kentucky and are required to meet certain standards of care. Research has shown that the most powerful indicator of therapeutic success is the therapeutic relationship itself. Feeling understood and appropriately challenged by one’s therapist is far more important than particular psychotherapeutic theories or particularities in licenses.

However, pastoral counseling offers a unique perspective by integrating psychotherapy and theology. Questions of spirituality emerge often in therapy, and they are frequently accompanied by complex emotions like grief, pain, suffering, and loss. It is in times of pain that we tend to ask big questions about the value of our lives, the goodness of God, and the purpose of our faith communities. KLPCs offer neither easy answers to those questions nor do they brush them aside. Rather, they are trained to sit in the complexity of these questions and aid in their understanding. Many who have experienced religious trauma or hurt from faith communities can find empathy and new understanding from a pastoral counselor.

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